Spotlight: Adrienne Sutton

Research Scientist - Marine Carbon Group

Adrienne SuttonAdrienne Sutton joined JISAO in January 2012 as a Research Scientist in the Marine Carbon group at the Pacific Marine Environmental Lab (PMEL). Although she’s new to JISAO, Adrienne is seasoned PMEL employee having worked there for two years as a Postdoctoral Associate with Drs. Richard Feely and Chris Sabine.

Adrienne grew up loving the water and went to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington on a swimming scholarship before she received her PhD in Oceanography from the University of Maryland in 2006. After earning her doctorate, Adrienne took a three-year break from research to be a Congressional Liaison with the NOAA Office of Legislative Affairs in Washington, DC where she engaged the U.S. Congress on issues concerning oceans and climate change. Her time working in government taught her the importance of networking and being able to nurture relationships. It was in Washington, DC that she met Dr. Feely and Oregon State University’s Dr. Jane Lubchenco, the two connections that would soon lead her to the West Coast.

Adrienne diving in IndonesiaAfter three years in the Nation’s Capital, Adrienne decided to get back into research, but even with a PhD, it can be challenging to rejoin the scientific research community following a stint in politics. Fortunately for Adrienne, Dr. Lubchenco (now the NOAA administrator) had experience dealing with the political side of science so she understood the benefits having someone with Adrienne’s combination of political and scientific skills. This led to a one-year postdoc position in Dr. Lubchenco’s lab at Oregon State. 

She then moved to Seattle in 2010 to join Dr. Feely, another contact from her time in Washington, DC, as a postdoc at PMEL. During her time in that position Adrienne helped to develop the research plan for NOAA’s new Ocean Acidification Program. Now with JISAO, Adrienne’s work is focused on ocean carbon observations to better understand the natural variability of seawater chemistry and the evolving state of ocean acidification. To do so, she uses hi-resolution monitoring systems on buoys throughout the ocean to gather data showing the air-sea exchange of carbon dioxide and to establish ocean acidification time series observations. It is common for Adrienne to be contacted by Adrienne and husband John at Obama Inaugurationformer colleagues in DC, such as Congressional and nonprofit environmental staff, asking her to translate scientific information, so she is able to remain active in politics, policy discussions, and science communication.

Adrienne still loves spending time in the water and is a SCUBA diving instructor in her spare time. She and her husband John, the Communications Specialist with UW College of the Environment (pictured right at the Obama Inauguration in Washington, DC), love to travel but much of their time is spent working to restore their 100-year-old Seattle home. Adrienne also loves to garden and hopes to learn the secrets of year-round vegetable gardening in the Pacific Northwest.